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Sndpiper
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« on: September 27, 2006, 12:57:06 PM »

Way of Life Fades as Crabbing Prices Remain Low
Sep 27th - 7:06am

By LAREN HUGHES
The (Salisbury) Daily Times
CRISFIELD, Md. (AP) - All of the men in Guy Marshall's family were captains, but he has no desire to carry on the tradition. As first mate on the Beth Anne, a crabbing boat that docks in Crisfield, he watches boat owners struggle to stay afloat.
"I could go work for myself, but then I'd have to deal with all the bills," he said. "I work as a mate and I don't have to worry about nothing. I just make my salary and go home." But while Marshall counts his money, others are calculating their losses.
Jay Carmen of Crisfield crabs three to five times a week and sometimes it doesn't pay to leave shore because crabbers are still being offered less than fair prices at the docks, he said.
"A lot of watermen are looking for jobs on land and selling their equipment," he said. For years, he and his peers have been hoping the market would improve, but it hasn't, he said.
"We're not making any money," Carmen said. "These are 20-year-old prices (commercial buyers are) giving us."
Binky Dize, a buyer for S.T. Horner and Sons Inc. of Crisfield, sympathizes with the watermen, claiming the business has been steadily going downhill.
"The old days used to be you could make a living off the water, but not anymore," he said. "Every day we hear that the prices should be higher. When I was a waterman I felt the same way."
But what irritates watermen more than minimal profit is that the middlemen who purchase their crabs for "next to nothing," are selling them for much more.
Marshall said the same bushel of crabs that his captain is paid $35 dollars for is sold at retail for $100 or more.
"That feels like a slap in the face to me," he said. "They try to take them from us as cheap as they can get them, but on the city end, they still have to pay high prices."
Business typically takes a turn for the worse after Labor Day when tourism season ends and the demand for hard crabs diminishes, Carmen said.
Part of the trouble for local watermen comes from commercial buyers who buy their product from overseas, Dize said.
"They're buying them from Jersey all the way to Timbuktu," he said, adding that the unpredictable market sometimes leads buyers to look for the product elsewhere. "Nobody can figure the crab out. We know they bite and they move. Other than that, we don't know nothing."
But Carmen said the buyers, who should be faithful to the watermen who work the bay daily, are forcing some watermen to dock their boats for good.
"They really don't care about the local watermen," he said. "We either accept it or do without. That's what it comes down to."
But facing a declining market, watermen have tried several tactics to raise prices _ some even called a strike. But that didn't work, Marshall said, as only a few stuck to their guns.
"If everybody would have stayed in, the market would have straightened out, but you just can't get watermen to stick together," he said. "The buyers figured, 'Why should I pay high prices when they're throwing crabs at our feet?'"
But despite the chatter among crabbers, Dize said his employer and other buyers are paying adequate prices.
"They're not getting ripped off," he said. "We try to treat them as fair as possible."
Dize, now 71, has spent his life between Smith Island and Crisfield. In his younger days, crabbing was a way of life which was passed from generation to generation. But that has changed and so has life on the water, he said.
"It's a dying industry," he said. "There are less watermen period."
Carmen attributes that to low wages.
"The watermen that have families, mortgages and car payments are not going to be able to make it," he said.
Years ago, when buyers wouldn't pay enough for hard crabs, watermen would peddle their product at crab-picking houses. But those days are long gone.
"Not everyone likes to pick 'em, so you need to sell the meat," Marshall said. "Someone's gotta pick 'em and if you ain't got nobody, then you're not gonna move much of 'em."
While they attempt to pay bills and stay above water, the fear of drowning enters the minds of many watermen whenever they gas up or buy new equipment.
"The market has gone in the tank the last two or three years and I really hope it turns around," Carmen said. "This is everyone's heritage around here and it's really sad to see it die."
Information from: The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times
(Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Islander
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2006, 05:14:09 PM »

 Its sad but true........... Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad Sad


« Last Edit: October 13, 2006, 11:46:06 PM by Islander » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2006, 05:40:56 PM »

I guess y'all know Billy Joel's story, he's awesome..............picking houses here are paying between 40 and 50 cents, but they can't handle much volume    All of them together don't pick the crabs that just one used to
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tomclark
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2006, 05:44:44 PM »

Watermen form a commercial buyers corporation, corporation becomes the new, friendly, profitable, write-offable middleman and profits come back to Watermen?  There are enough of them to form such a group.  Retail price could actually come down and crabbers make more than double, at least most of the profit where it belongs!  Other industries have done the same thing.  Or have politicians permanently separated commercial buyers from watermen to help big business?
This is a [dang] shame.  Buy from local crabbers only!!
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2006, 05:58:42 PM »

We have had co-ops of different kinds over the yrs and most of them work just fine for a while, problem is finding somebody capable and trustworthy to run it, Watermen are the most independent group you will run across,it makes things tough on a co-op manager
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2006, 01:45:18 PM »

RD, your right co-ops would and can work. Problem is since most comm. guys are like you said "independent" they dont want to stick around make sure everything is bushled up,sold, on a truck to the mkt. Shoot  you already work a 10+ hr. day who wants to hang around for 4+ hrs? Manager? Would'nt he be more like the middle man? Hate to be in his spot if sales go sour! Sad I dont your age or exactly you do far as crab. I've only been/worked in the seafood industry for about 20 years. I'm now laid up with a bad for the past year. (comes with the job). Over this time period, I've had time to reflect on the crab business, attitudes of both dealers(buyers/sellers) and comm. guys. I forget where I read here in the forum, but someone stated if you go down on prices you cant or have a hard time going back up on them. That's what every resturant, carry out or mkt has to tend with. They have to cover their expences year round.  Picking houses have the same deal. Paying .60c+ per lb is the high limit of the industry. Thank's to large corp. Like hmmm ph*****s (I think most would figure that out) who buy cheaper imports operate plants overseas to drive/driven down prices to make it hard to compete with. Well I dont think I should ramble on much more in fear of stepping on the wrong toes. But in light heres my "BIG GAME PICTURE"(1)  boycott such places that serve foreign processed meat. (2)Get the comm. crabbers to join a union not a co-op. Dont crab unless dealers have agreed on a set price that is comfortable for all. Take crabs(true blues) of the table, and see what happens. The other major problem is free trade/import of those product. I believe there should be limits set. Let us(Americans) produce crabs both for live mkt. and picking house. Let them have first chance to pick and sell what they have and maybe put some up frozen or pasturized before the foreign mkt. can fill the gap. Any input, how bout marching to Capitol Hill? All those answers are up to you guys.
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Lots of crabbers and crab lovers on here. If you enjoy crabs, lot's of info and good chat about crabs. Why not go ahead and donate to this forum. Deep down after doing research on here and chatting with others,you will find useful info from some new friends.ENJOY!!
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2006, 01:52:18 PM »

Oh yeah, correction it's supposed to be bad back not( my bad.) Embarassed  Also, maybe it's just me but has anyone noticed the price of  croaker or spot at grocery stores. A .10c fish being sold $3.00 per/lb and he still has his head on. I know one thing for that price it better cook itself and be served on a silver platter Cheesy Cheesy laugh
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Lots of crabbers and crab lovers on here. If you enjoy crabs, lot's of info and good chat about crabs. Why not go ahead and donate to this forum. Deep down after doing research on here and chatting with others,you will find useful info from some new friends.ENJOY!!
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2006, 02:15:28 PM »

....I actually like the market of over-seas crabs.....it takes alot of pressure off the bluecrabs here in the states.......could you imagine what the crabbing would be like if the crabmeat industry relied soley on the atlantic and southern bluecrab population to supply it? There would be big problems with over harvesting. Crabbers just need to market they're catch better........crabbing is physical hard work, it's not mentally tough work.  Wink
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horsefly
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2006, 04:14:11 PM »

I believe the only pressure being felt is slack pockets in the crabbers. Not in the species. Do you know how many crabs are caught and many states supply resturants etc., not only in MD but else where. With harsher rules and regs. for trawlers,dredgers and potters, I dont believe there is anyway to over harvest. Besides crabs are tempermental and like to travel, think of them as the cockroach of the sea. You're right the crabbers need to mkt their catch better. HOW??? Actually crabbing is both physical and mental. With prices being paid dirt cheap, price of fuel still high and bait prices high. (oh I forget striker labor) I really would need to psych myself up to go in the morn. I never did say to totally eliminate over seas meat, but to set poundage restrictions etc, and how it is handled. Besides the meat is nooooo where as sweet or tasty as the Blue Crab. One day sooner or later the world of crabbing will be changed forever. When and how is just like shrimp. Pond raising crabs! Then you'll be able to pluck out the ones (or #1's) you need for your mkt's. Bad bad  Undecided thing hmmm think on that. Hey I apperciate you guys letting me plug on great forum and to tell you the truth it's almost a crabbers Bible of info.
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Lots of crabbers and crab lovers on here. If you enjoy crabs, lot's of info and good chat about crabs. Why not go ahead and donate to this forum. Deep down after doing research on here and chatting with others,you will find useful info from some new friends.ENJOY!!
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2006, 04:30:15 AM »

Watermen should take a look at the Cranberry Co-Operative (Ocean Spray) and follow suit.  Everyone deserves a chance to make an honest living.  In New England the cranberry farmers suffered just like you are until the formed a strong cooperative.
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« Reply #10 on: October 01, 2006, 02:27:38 PM »

It always seems that watermen are fighting to survive; fishing conditions (fuel, weather and bait) market forces and government regulations. We're into our season now and the battle rages up here in the northeast as well.  (Hi guys-haven't had time to check in lately) Our lobster industry parallels your crabbing with so many of the same problems and I believe that is due to the lack of control of the industry by the partispants. In Maine, as our lobster go into there shed (opposite to you guys-soft lobster are worth much less) we begin to ship our product to Canadian based processors for canning and the meat market. The processors are unbelievable in controlling prices (usually down) and as they are not US based, price fixing is common and blattent. This past week they we're able to beat down our price by a quarter a pound, which might not seem like much but the season's been weak and costs have been higher. There are very few Maine or US based processor company and theses that are, are small and follow the Canadian lead. It became a take or leave it deal with almost nowhere Else to go. Worse, the fishing has been pretty weak and the fall weather is coming in fast.
  I am beginning to believe that the biggest problem and the best attribute of the US Commercial Fisheries is that it is truly a community based industry. Small boat fishing makes up the largest segment of employment in the business, yet seems to have the least clout. Costs have double or even tripled over the past few years with fuel, bait, insurance (if you can get it) and yet it does seem that the bulk of the money stays as far away from the water as possible.  As some of you know, I am a buyer, dealer and transporter of Lobster. I maintain shore side facilities which sell fuel, bait and provide moorings to fishermen and parking for there pickup. If we are buying at $4.00 a pound (which we were last week until the C's forced down the prices), I might make sixty or seventy cent running across the $ wharf, loading into my $ truck and taking it down the $ road, eating the -$ shrink (loss/spoilage) and selling it to hopefully someone who will pay for it.
   Yet I look at my live trade markets and they making six or seven time more than I am (in the case of a restaurant even more) and more than the fishermen who I honestly believe risk there skins everyday trying to catch them.  There are very few young fellows going into fishing anymore and you now what, it is understandable (well-a little). I mean you can go out and bang nails and make as much in eight hours as  you would on two twelve hour days  on the water. Now as for me, I'd rather have two days on the water but if you're looking to buy a house and raise kid-it might not happen on fishermen pay. I don't know why the government ignores the business other than they want us out so the can build condo on our working waterfront. How come the huge agri-business get all the breaks and our brothers down on the gulf can even get fair funding to rebuild there fleets and businesses. I guess the government just thinks that we fools and some other sucker will come along and take our place if the beat us down.
   Well, I for one am not going to let them win. It's a waste of time call some half assed poltitian who will give you lip service and get a newspaper article in about how they are trying to help the little pathetic fishermen.  The fishermen in this country need to pull together with all of the industry and force their hand. Maybe a coast to coast strike would work, I don't know. It has to come sooner than later so the sons and daughters can continue in the best tradition there is.

(Pardon the spelling-it's had to spell standing on a soap box)
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2006, 11:24:07 AM »

why dont crabbers try and sell directly to the restaurants and seafood markets around their area..skip the middle man?
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« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2006, 11:25:04 AM »

I think the seafood markets and restaurants are considered the middle man too, 
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« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2006, 11:37:01 AM »

I think the seafood markets and restaurants are considered the middle man too, 
No they are not the middle men, a middle man is one who buys from a crabber or crab house and then sells to the restuarants or markets
why dont crabbers try and sell directly to the restaurants and seafood markets around their area..skip the middle man?
Not everybody wants the huge headaches that come with that, most crabbers are happy dealing with someone who can take all or most of their crabs everyday, and it would be like sitting up on the side of the road,if just 25 percent of the crabbers did that they would end up driving the price down to nothing,  Huh, there will always be some who thinks he can sell more crabs if he lowers the price,and he can for a very short time untill everybody else lowers theirs, then he has to go lower, its never ending,one day you look around and you are selling the same amount of crabs for 1/3 of the price
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